Alex Enumah in Abuja
Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), have told the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, that his request for the Supreme Court to review its judgment voiding his electoral victory is at best an academic exercise, which would yield nothing fruitful.
They described the appeal as baseless and unwarranted.
Uzodinma and the APC who are respondents in the application by Ihedioha asking the apex court to set aside its earlier order, which removed him from office, noted that by the provisions of the law and public policy, there ought to be an end to litigation.
Ihedioha, who was sworn in last May as governor of Imo State was on January 14, 2020 removed as governor on the grounds that he did not win majority of lawful votes cast at the March 9 governorship election before he was declared winner of the poll.
According to the apex court, the failure of INEC to include votes from 388 polling units robbed Uzodinma of victory at the poll.
But Ihedioha, displeased with the judgment of the Supreme Court, had approached the court with an application to set aside its decision on the grounds that the apex court judgment was a nullity because it was a product of fraud, adding that the court was also misled in arriving at its judgment.
But the two respondents in a reply to Ihedioha’s motion, claimed that the request is nothing but a mere academic exercise and an affront to the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
In a 19-paragraph affidavit filed in opposition to Ihedioha’s application, the governor and his party said the 60 days allowed for the Supreme Court by the constitution has since lapsed.
“The undisputed facts relating to the respondents/applicants’ motion hereinafter referred to as “the motion” are to the effect that the judgment of the Court of Appeal was delivered on 21st September, 2019 while the one sought to be set aside was delivered on 14th January, 2020. Clearly, the 60 days allowed by Section 285(7) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) for this Hon. Court to hear and determine appeal from the Court of Appeal in an election matter, lapsed on January 17, 2020. The motion to set aside was filed on February 5, 2020, 19 days after the time allowed by the Constitution.
“It is now a settled law that the 60 days’ time limit to determine and conclude litigation on election matters is sacrosanct and cannot be extended by any guise,” they stated in the counter-affidavit filed on their behalf by their lawyer, Mr. Damian Dodo (SAN).
In the counter-affidavit deposed to by one Mathew Mola, the two respondent said the apex court was not in the habit of sitting on appeal over its own judgment as being demanded by Ihedioha.
The respondents said since January 14 when the apex court delivered the landmark judgment that brought Uzodinma to power, the court had since ceased to have the constitutional power to adjudicate on the declaration of Uzodinma as the winner of the March 9, 2019, governorship election in Imo State.
The deponent averred that by the rule of the apex court, the court is prohibited from reviewing its own judgment once delivered except to correct clerical mistakes or accidental slips.
“As the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court jealously guides its process against abuse by litigants”, he said, “and does not indulge in academic exercise or answer by hypothetical questions”.
The deponent said contrary to the claim of Ihedioha in his application, the scores of all the candidates in the election as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were clearly set out, adding that a petitioner whose votes were excluded from the declared results is entitled to compute the votes excluded in the presentation of his case.
The counter-affidavit denied the allegation that Uzodinma admitted that he allocated votes to himself or that the votes in the 388 polling units were in excess of the registered voters.
“I know as a fact that the issue of total number of votes cast exceeding the total number of accredited voters did not arise from the petition or the appeal considered and determined by the Supreme Court.
“I also know that the issue of the votes of 68 other candidates not been reflected was never raised by Ihedioha in the appeal that led to the judgment now been challenged,” he added.
Describing Ihedioha’s allegations as wild and baseless, the deponent said Uzodinma and APC did not mislead the Supreme Court to perpetrate any fraud in the appeal that brought them to power.
Uzodinma and APC in their joint preliminary objection prayed the Supreme Court to strike out the request for being baseless and unwarranted.
They argued that the application by Ihedioha constitutes a gross abuse of court process, exercise in futility and an attempt to force the apex court to sit on appeal in its own judgment.
They said by Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Supreme Court could no longer adjudicate in the matter having become statute-barred.